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Tiny Tractors

Local toy farm collection hits cover of national magazine
Lead Summary
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Lori Sorenson

Ardell Van Wettering, Luverne, is a grownup with kid-sized farm equipment.
He also has toy race cars, semi trucks and other miscellaneous miniature machinery on wheels.
But he really likes his farm toys, and there are hundreds of them in his extensive collection.
It includes tractors, wagons, combines, disks, mowers, rakes, balers, manure spreaders and every other imaginable piece of equipment you’d find on a real farm.
“Everyone needs a hobby so this is mine,” he said. “I enjoy showing the little kids and watching their faces.”
While he enjoys showing it off, he’d rather not share — especially not with children, who could mess up his artfully assembled display.
The farmyard is more of a farm community, with houses, a police station, barns, machine shops, a bin site, farm animals and nearby farm ground.
Children might have too much fun with the dirt, which is cleverly sculpted to appear as if it were recently tilled in neat rows.
A nearby toy pickup appears to be stuck in a soft spot in the field, a realistic scenario for anyone accustomed to spring planting.
Another area of the display is dedicated to hay and baling equipment, complete with windrows, bales (both square and round) and hayracks.
And it’s all tied together by an oval railroad track, which, of course, carries a working train.
When asked why he does it, Ardell just shrugs. “I just like it … It’s something I enjoy.”
His collection started on a table in the basement family room, but as it grew — a few pieces every year, his wife, Jennifer, gently suggested he relocate to a nearby storage room.
That room is now filled with the collection, which also includes some NASCAR memorabilia.
“We always know what to get him for his birthday or Christmas,” Jennifer said, and Ardell admits to dropping hints as to what those new pieces might be.
What he doesn’t get as gifts he goes shopping for at regional toy shows in the tri-state area.
“It’s gotten to be a family affair,” he said about the road trips with Jennifer and their daughters, Brooke, 19, and Ashley, 15.
One of their favorite stops is in Dyersville, Iowa, home of the National Farm Toy Museum.
That’s also home to the National Farm Toy Show, started by Toy Farmer Magazine, a national publication dedicated to farm toy enthusiasts.
The Van Wettering farm village caught the attention of Toy Farmer publishers, and the Luverne display will be featured on the cover of the magazine’s upcoming August edition.
“When I started this I didn’t know it would get this big and end up on the cover of a magazine,” Ardell said of his newfound fame.
Toy Farmer Magazine, based in LaMoure, North Dakota, started in 1978 as a one-page newsletter with 17 subscribers. As the popularity of farm toy collecting grew through the years so did the magazine, which became a 90-page monthly magazine with a print circulation of roughly 28,000.
The August 2015 edition featuring the Van Wettering farm toys will hit the stands on July 20.

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